Prep Basketball

Boys' basketball notebook: Shooting free throws and playing defense is Turkey Valley's winning formula

Trojans are 11-2, unbeaten in Upper Iowa Conference

CEDAR RAPIDS — In a day and age when kids seem to do nothing but camp out at the 3-point arc, the Turkey Valley boys’ basketball is a throwback, of sorts.

It’s not that the Trojans don’t shoot treys. It’s their proficiency at the free-throw line is what really catches your eye.

Their success ratio is over 70 percent as a team. The five starters all shoot 75 or better.

That will win you some games.

“You’re absolutely right there,” said seventh-year head coach Chris Sullivan. “We can put five guys on the court where opposing teams have to pick their poison, because we have five guys who shoot over 75 percent. Whichever of the five is at the line, we are more than confident they are going to knock down the shot and put the game on ice for us. That is a benefit.”

Turkey Valley went into its game Thursday night at Sumner-Fredericksburg with an 11-2 record, a perfect 11-0 in the Upper Iowa Conference. The losses were to Class 2A New Hampton and Mabel-Canton (Minn.).

Sullivan knew he’d have a good club this season because four starters from a 14-9 team last season returned. Yes, this has been a good club.

“First off, we had a great offseason,” he said. “We knew we had a lot of people returning, starters returning. We also had a very competitive freshmen group that are now sophomores that we knew we’d be able to sprinkle into the mix. They have really helped us out a lot. It was just a great offseason. The kids worked extremely hard, and not only in the weight room.”

TV’s two leading scorers are sophomores Ethan Leibold and Keegan Balk. The 6-foot-3 Leibold averages 15.4 points per game and shoots 65.3 percent from the field.

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Evan Drilling, Jordon Snyder and Levi Izer round out the starting five, and they average between 7.6 and 10.5 points.

A lot of balance there.

“Our strength would be playing as a team,” Sullivan said. “We’re just a balanced team, unselfish. I preach that I don’t care who scores. All we care about is at the end of the night getting the W. So far, that has been working out well for us.”

Sullivan also said his team’s defensive capabilities have been a boon. Turkey Valley ranks in the top 10 in Class 1A in fewest points allowed, using three-quarter pressure and an aggressive, extended zone.

“It has created a lot of turnovers,” he said. “We’ve had nights where we’ve had 17 to 20 steals, created 20 to 25 turnovers. That has really sparked our offense.”

POSTSEASON PODS ON THE WAY

The Iowa High School Athletic Association is expected to release postseason groupings Friday for Class 1A and 2A. Pods for Class 3A and 4A are expected next Friday. Coaches will seed each districts/substate during meetings Wednesday, Jan. 31 (1A-2A) and Wednesday, Feb. 7 (3A-4A), which is how brackets will be determined. The IHSAA decides on the sites of each game. All games up to the seeding meetings are to be considered. The state tournament also will be seeded by coaches again this year.

GREEN SETS CEDAR FALLS MARK

Outstanding senior guard AJ Green scored 36 points in Cedar Falls’ 55-54 upset Tuesday night of Class 4A top-ranked Iowa City West. That set his school’s record for most career points (1,435). Green is averaging 26.3 points per game this season and shooting a stellar 47.5 percent (56 of 118) from 3-point range. Green is a University of Northern Iowa signee, the son of Panthers assistant coach Kyle Green.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE ME

Twenty-five players around the state went into Thursday averaging double figures in points and rebounds, including a pair of area guys. West Delaware junior center Derek Krogmann averages 22.2 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, building on an outstanding sophomore season in which his Hawks placed fourth in Class 3A at the state tournament. Junior forward Tate Bear of Meskwaki Settlement School also averages a double-double of 18.8 points and 10.4 rebounds. Don’t forget about North Linn junior guard Jake Hilmer, who also averages a double-double. That would be 24.8 points and a state-leading 12 assists per game.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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